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SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

Food for thought: Ryan lunches with Sanchez

New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez and Rex

New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez and Rex Ryan during the fourth quarter against the San Diego Chargers in an NFL divisional playoff football game. (Jan. 17, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

When Mark Sanchez went through a midseason slump last year, capped by a four-interception meltdown in New England, Rex Ryan interceded and came up with a color-coded system to help cut down on his turnovers.

Now that Sanchez is in the midst of another slump, punctuated by another disaster against Bill Belichick's Patriots, Ryan has stepped in again.

After Sanchez came up small in Monday night's 45-3 embarrassment, Ryan hopes a weekly heart-to-heart with his quarterback will settle him down as the Jets embark on their playoff run.

"This isn't a huge thing. It's a lunch date so I can eat Mexican food with him," Ryan cracked.

Sorry, this was no ordinary lunch date. This was about a coach concerned enough about two straight inefficient performances by his young QB to sit down face-to-face and impart some friendly advice.

After seeing Sanchez fail to adequately deal with Belichick's schemes in a three-interception performance, Ryan wanted to impart some tips on what Sanchez will face the next two weeks against two defensive coordinators with whom he has become familiar over the years.

Dolphins defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, who faces the Jets on Sunday, worked with Ryan on the Ravens' staff, and Ryan became quite familiar with Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau from their days of coaching against one another in the AFC North.

"I know those guys well," Ryan said. "I've worked under Mike Nolan for a few years, and I've gone up against Dick LeBeau forever. I think I can maybe help [Sanchez] these two weeks."

It was after another Sanchez meltdown in New England last year, when he threw four INTs, that Ryan came up with the color-coded system that involved a color for any given passing situation. This time, it's Ryan sitting in the team's cafeteria and schmoozing with his QB.

"It was more of a big-picture conversation regarding schemes and what they like to do," Sanchez said after yesterday's late-afternoon session. "It's always helpful talking football with Rex because you spend so much time in offensive meetings and discussing our approach that it's good to get a defensive perspective. It really enhances your overall football knowledge. I think it was awesome that he took the time to do it."

It can't hurt. With Sanchez throwing 11 INTs in his last seven games, compared to none in his first five, there is concern that the second-year QB might be regressing.

Although Ryan says the second-year pro's confidence hasn't been damaged, he wants to make sure Sanchez can regroup and find the touch like last year.

After Ryan instituted the color-coded system, Sanchez threw only four INTs in his last five regular-season games and only two in three playoff games. "These turnovers need to get cut down," Sanchez said. "There's no two ways about it, just better decisions sometimes."

Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is on board with the impromptu meetings.

"I think it's really important that a head coach and a quarterback have a great relationship," he said. " . . . Rex is great. Rex's strongest suit is [his] people skills, and he and Mark are great. Anything that he can give him from that vantage point, I'm all for it."

If nothing else, we can at least offer a chicken soup seal of approval to the Ryan-Sanchez get-togethers.

And if they work as well as the color-coded system instituted after last year's embarrassment in New England, they can only help.


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